Thousands of Ohioans reopening unemployment claims as coronavirus cases increase and state mandates curfew

Thousands of Ohioans reopening unemployment claims as coronavirus cases increase and state mandates curfew

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Ohio workers are reopening unemployment claims, some even while still on the job.

Restaurant workers said so few customers are coming in that they’re making next to nothing right now.

Some are worried about what that could mean for their families as we approach the holidays.

Rennee George spends a lot of time on Facebook, chatting with other restaurant employees who are trying to figure out Ohio’s unemployment system.

“It’s not that I’m good with it, it’s just that everything could happen has happened,” she said.

She said she’s waited weeks on pending.

She’s been asked to switch back and forth between regular unemployment and pandemic unemployment assistance.

She said she’s even been told she owes back thousands in funds that were accidentally sent to her.

And now, after a few good weeks at her new restaurant job she’s struggling again, as rising coronavirus cases seem to be keeping people from spending less money eating out.

“I can’t help it that covid is high again,” George said.

According to the state, nearly 21,729 Ohioans re-opened unemployment claims last week-- the week Dewine began the state-wide curfew.

Some, are like George.

She’s still working, but barely making any money.

She said it’s certainly less than she would be making if she were just sitting at home drawing benefits.

“Normally the night before Thanksgiving is a great restaurant night, don’t think it’s going to be,” she said.

Until now, she says she’s always felt like she could come through for her family on holidays.

“If it meant that I had to pick up extra shifts or do whatever I did it, but you don’t have that option now,” she said.

She and other Ohioans in her position can report their incomes to unemployment and apply for supplement funding to make their income around what it would be if they were just on unemployment.

However, George says her last claims doing that are still pending, as she’s scraping together Thanksgiving dinner.

“I’m like ok, so we have no money,” she said.

Adding to the stress about the immediate situation, many claimants have expressed concern because pandemic unemployment assistance benefits are currently set to stop going out the week after Christmas.

It’s unclear at this point if the federal government is going to take action in time to extend that.

According to the state, a little more than a hundred thousand claimants are currently receiving benefits because of special extensions made this year.

That’s about 23 percent of everyone in the unemployment system.

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